Michael Dettmers, Former Personal Assistant to Prem Rawat Internet Revelations
Date: Thurs, Apr 06, 2000 at 02:51:56 (GMT)
Subject: Dettmers speaks out a little more
Just got this from Mike. I'm sure he'll be interested in your feedback.
To: Jim Heller
From: Michael Dettmers
Date: April 5, 2000
I have read the responses to my April 2nd memo on your website. I am willing to address, as best I can, some of the more fundamental issues that have been raised. Let me reiterate, however, what I said in my earlier memo. I have no intention of engaging in rumor and gossip. Many of the questions and concerns that have been expressed and debated about Maharaji's lifestyle are of no concern to me. I have better things to do in my life than to get caught up in such discussions, whether it's about Bill Clinton, Princess Diana or Maharaji.
Let me begin by saying that I wasn't always a PAM (to use your acronym) nor was it my conscious ambition to become one. I was, however, very motivated to participate in a meaningful way in the spreading of knowledge. My ambition was consistent with my earlier involvement in the late 60s with the anti-Vietnam war movement. At that time, I helped organize and run "safe houses" in Toronto for Americans who came to Canada to evade the draft. In much the same way that I believed the anti-war movement was a worthwhile cause, I believed that Maharaji's declared mission of spreading peace in the world was a cause I wanted to participate in.
After receiving knowledge, I became actively involved in DLM-Canada and, shortly thereafter, became the National Coordinator. For the first year or so in this position, I had no direct contact with Maharaji. In those early days I accepted and practiced all of the ashram's prescribed protocol, and I enjoyed and derived great personal benefit from doing so.
The first time I actually spent any personal time with Maharaji was during his visit to Canada in 1974. Shortly, thereafter, he asked me to come to Denver to work at his International Headquarters. As I spent more personal time with Maharaji, I became less in awe of him as a perfect master sitting on a stage, and got to know, respect and love him as a person - a very incredible, uniquely talented, and extremely intelligent human being. It didn't matter to me that he was but a mere mortal like the rest of us. I was convinced that he had the vision, the commitment, and the ability to spread knowledge to people all over the world, and I was glad to play a role in that endeavor.
The role I played gave me a unique vantage point on his work. For instance, from a management and organizational perspective (putting any spiritual considerations aside) the ashram structure presented some serious problems. For cultural reasons, it worked in India, but I could not see how it could work in the West unless it was confined to a small community. But it was not confined to a small community. Ashrams were established all over the world and there were no mechanisms in place or even contemplated that were capable of fulfilling the responsibilities that the structure implied. When people age, or get sick, for example, who and what support system would take care of them. The ashrams in India were capable and experienced in handling these kinds of issues because they were self-sufficient communities with premies and mahatmas of all ages, and supported by the larger community of premies.
Notwithstanding these arguments for their closure in the West, my biggest concern was that the structure, taken as a whole, had all the earmarks of a cult, and I had no intention of participating in the propagation of a cult. For these reasons, I was a strong advocate for closing the ashrams. I recommended, instead, that a few retreat-type environments be established around the world where premies could visit for a week or two to deepen their experience of knowledge and then return to their daily lives. It was my view that, when people received knowledge, they were not joining anything, whether it is called DLM, Élan Vital, the world of Maharaji, or premiedom. That is why I wanted to get rid of the word "premie." It is my opinion that you don't become anything when you receive knowledge, you simply get more in touch with who you really are.
But my recommendations didn't stop with the closing of the ashrams. I was convinced that Maharaji needed to re-define his role to better present knowledge to much greater numbers of people. In my view, it was unnecessary and unwise to suggest that devotion to Maharaji was an integral condition for experiencing knowledge. Let the experience itself be the focus of a person's life. That people would naturally want express their gratitude, appreciation and even love to him for making knowledge available to them would, of course, be understandable. But leave it at that.
Some people have asked what I have learned from my experience. This is a valid question and I will do my best to answer it from my current perspective. Please forgive me if I sound too pedantic. I am not seeking anyone's agreement with what I have to say. I certainly don't claim that what I have to say is the "truth" of the matter. What I have to say is simply my opinion. You can take it or leave it for whatever its worth.
First, let me create a context for my answer. In my current consulting practice, I have learned the importance and benefit of distinguishing between a phenomenon and its explanation. For example, the phenomenon of "gravity" has had many explanations over the years. Newton had one explanation or interpretation, Einstein developed another. The phenomenon of gravity itself did not change, but different explanations of it evolved over time. It is important, therefore, that we do not see our interpretations as the "truth." They are simply our interpretations. This is not to suggest that interpretations are trivial or insignificant. Clearly, some interpretations create greater possibilities for action than others. Einstein's interpretation is more powerful than Newton's because it allows for greater possibilities in space exploration than did Newton's. Thus, one may conclude that innovation is about developing new and more relevant interpretations about a phenomenon. Innovation, on the other hand, is greatly inhibited when we do not distinguish between a phenomenon and its interpretation. The ability to make this distinction consistently is one of the important divides between our former "modern" and our current "post-modern" understanding about reality and truth.
Now how does this relate to Maharaji and knowledge? Let us suppose that knowledge is the phenomenon in question. Metaphorically speaking, knowledge is "gravity." Just as Einstein inherited the historical traditions and interpretations of gravity when he began his studies in physics, Maharaji inherited an interpretation about knowledge and his role in the process from his early childhood. This interpretation included a particular structure and certain practices that were designed to introduce a person to knowledge and to develop and sustain their experience of it. One of Maharaji's great gifts was his charismatic ability and foresight to attract people to him in India from all over the world, and to subsequently have them prepare the way for his arrival in the West. It makes perfect sense, to me at least, especially when you consider that he was only 12 years old, that he would export that structure and its related practices with him. It is my suggestion, however, that we view the structure, practices and his role as a particular interpretation, not as the "truth." Since there is nothing sacred about our interpretations, they are subject to being re-invented. That is what Einstein did with respect to the phenomenon of gravity, and that is what I suggested Maharaji do regarding his role and the related practices with respect to the phenomenon of knowledge.
However, when we fail to distinguish between the two domains, claims about the "truth" inevitably result. And there can only be one logical action if we accept that we are being presented with the "truth" (any "truth" by anybody about anything) and that is obedience. It is not surprising then, that many premies may believe that it is necessary to be devoted to Maharaji in order to experience knowledge. What's more, when these two distinct domains are collapsed into one, it is not unusual to find that we end up speaking as though our interpretations are the cause of the phenomenon. By not distinguishing between the phenomenon (knowledge) and the interpretation (his role, the structure and the practices), many premies came to the conclusion that Maharaji is the cause or the source of knowledge. Now there is an obvious flaw to this way of thinking. It's the same as saying that Einstein is the cause of gravity just because he developed the most relevant and powerful interpretation of it to date. Clearly the world admires and appreciates Einstein for the impact his interpretation has had on all of our lives. Time magazine even honored him as "Man of the Century." Likewise, Maharaji can receive the love, admiration and respect from those people who are benefiting from the knowledge he taught them without any need for the trappings of devotion and all that that implies.
Having said that, do I blame or am I upset with Maharaji because things did not proceed as I would have preferred? Absolutely not. As I said in my previous memo, I respect his right to make whatever interpretation he chooses. It is his mission, not mine. I take full responsibility for the choice I made to receive knowledge in the first place and to make myself available to help him further his mission. Life is full of risks and there are no guarantees. There were risks involved in running the "safe houses" in Toronto, yet I choose to take those risks because I believed in the cause. I feel the same way about the time I spent with Maharaji or any of the projects I am currently involved in. I take responsibility for my choices and I refuse, as a matter of principle, to blame anyone else for the consequences that ensue.